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Monday 30 September 2013

Editing pointers - Encounters

When two main characters meet, there’s the opportunity to provide a contrast in temperament, and even verbal fencing, all to establish more character and create mood. If a modicum of mystery can be maintained, all the better.

I’ll use an excerpt from Death is Another Life by Robert Morton (Solstice Publishing) to illustrate a few pointers.

Here, the mystery might even pose a threat from the reader’s viewpoint since the narrative has already revealed the evil side of Zondadari. To echo my blog on dialogue – Let’s Talk – here there is plenty of speech and interaction, yet there are only four instances of ‘said’ in this excerpt, though only two of them are actually attributions.
See the surroundings from a single viewpoint, in this case, Maria’s.
As here, try to end the chapter on a note of menace or a note of concern.
Mellieha, Malta

Maria, the Maltese-American journalist meets the mysterious Count…(p80):

Maria parked the car a little way up the road, just beyond a pile of dumped building material on the roadside, under an overhanging tamarisk which might keep the interior of the car cool while she reconnoitred. The road was dusty and pot-holed, the tarmac edges crumbling away with neglect.        She’d had difficulty finding the place and had stopped several people to make enquiries. Finally, she found it, to the north-east of Mellieha, down a winding road of evergreen oaks near the Selmun tower. 
            The entrance to the Tabona residence was set back from the twisting road. A drive curved up a gentle slope, through the welcome shade of shrubs and almond trees.
            Its strap over one shoulder, her bag tapped her side as she walked.
            Ahead rose the imposing tall iron gates, each side adorned with a family crest incorporating the Virgin Mary. The wrought-iron decoration was too fancy for her taste, but she appreciated it as a work of art. To the left of the gate pillars was another driveway, presumably leading to a neighbouring villa.
            Assuring herself there was nobody about, she pulled out the small binoculars. They told her little.
            The Tabona villa was built on a rocky prominence, with the veranda facing the sea. The red-tiled roof was immaculate: obviously, no moss was allowed to take root there. Roses climbed the whitewashed walls. The three separate stories of the villa blended in with the limestone rock covered with shrubs.
            A rustling sound behind made her turn and lower the glasses and her heart suddenly started hammering.
            She took a sharp intake of breath.
            A man was silhouetted by the high Maltese sun, standing in the gap that the neighbouring drive presented. A large black Alsatian sat by his side. Its hackles were up and it growled, baring big sharp teeth.
Selmun tower


CHAPTER 7: The chill of the shadow

“Oh, you startled me,” Maria said, trying to make light of her reaction.
            “My apologies for creeping up on you.” The man possessed a gentle, calming voice. He stepped forward, though still concealed as if by preference by the shadows from the bougainvillea. Observing her discomposure, he whispered, “Stay, Prince,” and the dog obeyed, alert ears pricked. “I’m a neighbour of the Tabonas – Count Zondadari.” And he slipped his walking stick under his arm and offered a welcoming hand. The whites of his eyes shone out of the shade.
            “Good afternoon, sir.” His hand was large, powerful, yet his touch was gentle and cool. “I’m Maria Caruana, a reporter–”
            “Ah, yes, The Sting. Quite a newspaper! I’ve read you, often. I like your writing. You’re not afraid of the truth.”
            Nice of him to say so, even if he was merely being polite. She nodded and smiled an acknowledgment. “Thank you. But I try to remember what William Blake said–
            A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent. Isn’t that it?”
            She was impressed. “Yes. I won’t use truth to hit someone over the head with.”
            “Unlike some sanctimonious reporters I’ve met! Bravo, Maria!”
            She waved the binoculars about. “I don’t normally go snooping.”
            “Why not? You must get your story, no matter what.”
            “Are you making fun of me?”
            “On the contrary, I admire you.” His eyes glinted, humour in them.
            “I’m interested in the recent sad bereavement suffered by Mr. Tabona.”
            Count Zondadari pointedly eyed her binoculars.
            She flushed. “Normally, I’m not so blatant. But word has it he’s not at home. I just wanted to look the place over. Get a feel for it. A rich man’s retreat.” She shrugged. “I really want to find out why she would throw so much away.”
            Count Zondadari stepped forward, his black fedora casting his face in shadow. “Perhaps I could be of help. My villa is next door and overlooks a fair portion of his–”
            “Bad planning, wasn’t it?” He looked askance at her. “I mean, the lack of privacy–”
            “The Tabona land was sold by my family, so I suppose whoever built their place didn’t have much choice in the matter. Some of my relatives, I must admit, were somewhat nosy!”
            His apparent candour was refreshing. “Thank you. I would like to accept, but–” There was her planned restaurant meal with Manuel. He’d phoned to say he would be back from Sicily later today: the website weather forecasts said it was ideal for sailing. She could ring George on her cell-phone to explain where she was, but she had no hard news to give him, so he’d simply berate her for wasting his time.
            “And perhaps I can tell you more about my neighbours, no?”
            Maria was hooked. Neighbourly divulgences were often useful, if treated with circumspection, of course. “Yes, if I may.” She smiled and slipped her binoculars’ strap over her shoulder.
            The count stepped closer, a good twelve inches taller than her. Then, as they turned to proceed up the drive, he called, “Follow, Prince!”
            And the dog stood and strode purposefully behind them. Whenever Maria glanced back, the animal’s eyes were on her – neither menacing nor benign, simply watching.
            Light percolated through the tree-tops onto Count Zondadari’s face to reveal a vivid purple scar, the tissue still healing; it ran from temple to chin down the left side of his face. Involuntarily, Maria started.
            Even in these mottled shades he was quick to detect her reaction. “I’m sorry if I’ve startled you afresh, but I’m afraid I was a little careless with a stone-cutting saw whilst building my beach barbecue – I’ll show you my progress later, perhaps. It will be a short while before the wound heals properly.”
            “You must think me rude, to stare–”
            “No, not at all. It’s most natural.” A stray sunbeam glinted on the white of his teeth. “There’s nothing to it, I’m sure; once you’re used to seeing it–”
            “And will it scar?”
            “I fear it will.” She did not understand his aside to himself: “Just one of many over the years...” So she shrugged it off. Maybe he was a mite eccentric.
            As their feet scrunched up the sloping gravel drive, she viewed him anew in the shadow-less light.
            Count Zondadari was tall, with a patrician nose and high cheekbones. He had a high receding hairline that suggested intelligence and dark arched eyebrows. The laughter lines around his sensual mouth and flint-grey eyes softened his appearance. Those eyes shone, as if amused by life. Here was a man with supreme confidence, someone who lived life to the full. There was something other-worldly about him; oddly, she was reminded of Wilde’s Dorian Gray.
            The two-story villa was squat and long, the walls constructed from a variety of stonework. “This plot of land has been in my family since the 1560s.” He waved his walking stick in an arc. Prince watched obediently, alert. “We’ve tended to rebuild here and there, as the mood dictated, yet we have tried to preserve the features we like – hence the porch.” It was imposing, a pillared portico, with curving marble steps leading up to the heavy oak panelled door which sported large brass ornamentation and a fish-shaped door-knocker.

            “It’s beautiful,” Maria said and meant it. The stone walls, dun and drab, were haphazardly clothed in creepers, bougainvillea and begonia. The green of leaves was a striking contrast, and softened the privations of time. The Arabic designed stonework round the roof and windows seemed to blend with nature. The place appealed to her artistic eye. “The blossom will be absolutely gorgeous in a few weeks,” she added.
            “Yes.” He smiled down at her. “Some of the stonework is sixteenth century, so it seems to be rejuvenated every year when the flowers bloom. The place really comes alive then.”
            It could have been a trick of light, as they climbed the steps, but she thought his face had darkened momentarily, the shine inexplicably absent from his eyes at the mention of nature’s renewal. And the scar-tissue glowed red. But she could have imagined it – her imagination seemed to be on overtime these days.

(When I'm editing, I tend to ask for particulars, such as the name of a book the character is reading, or the type of car she is driving. Here, I settled for ‘car’ as its make was already established).


Sunday 29 September 2013

Dear editor - size isn't everything

Our alien wannabe writer has another letter to the editor...

Saturday 28 September 2013

Torn from today’s newspapers – the scum of the earth (1)

There are several groups of individuals who deserve the epithet ‘the scum of the earth’, but today we’ll look at those termed ivory poachers. ‘Poacher’ seems too tame a word for these people. Slaughterers, murderers, maybe?

A few days ago it was reported that these scum have reached a new low, by poisoning with cyanide vital drinking and bathing pools, killing more than eighty elephants. (BBC, Daily Mail et al). This happened in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park in July. Police say the poachers mixed a cocktail of cyanide and salt and water and poured it on to a number of salt licks – exposed deposits of minerals that the elephants use to get essential nutrients. Police found the mutilated bodies of elephants strewn around; some of the smaller elephants still had tusks, their size doubtless not worth taking. Poachers may get about £50 for each large tusk. Since discovering the carcasses, the police and rangers have searched nearby villages and recovered about twenty tusks, cyanide and wire snares. Nine alleged poachers were arrested and a South African businessman has been accused of being behind the poisonings.
Zimbabwe’s environment minister says ‘We are declaring war on the poachers… because our wildlife, including the elephants they are killing, are part of the natural resources and wealth that we want to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.’ (Here is not the place to examine where all the country’s riches have gone, Zimbabwe once being the continent’s bread basket and now just a basket case...)

Needless to say, a wide range of other animal carcasses were found near the contaminated watering holes – buffalo, lions, vultures, antelopes and jackals. Doubtless these despicable people are responsible for killing many more, since birds and animals will have fed on the poisoned carcasses.
In January 2012 a hundred raiders on horseback charged out of Chad into Cameroon’s national park and, carrying AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades, slaughtered hundreds of elephants in one of the worst acts since a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989. Twenty-five thousand elephants were killed illegally in 2011.  Ten Asian countries with the most ivory seized: India, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand and China. Seizure of tusks is too late, of course: the animals are dead. Action is needed at the sharp end. And, to be fair, it is robust, but the numbers of poachers are great. In the first half of 2012, for example, six park rangers died protecting Kenya’s elephants, while the rangers killed 23 poachers.

China accounts for 4o% of the world’s trade in elephant tusks.
Some official ivory carvers in China tender the lie that they only use tusks from elephants that died of natural causes, or those acquired before the ban.  Swindlers use tea or Coca-Cola to stain ivory to give it an antique appearance.

CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – has its work cut out, not only with regard to elephants, but also the rhino and tigers, among other at risk species.
For our ivory wedding anniversary, I drew this picture. The ivory looks best decorating the elephant.

At least in fiction, some of the bad guys can get their comeuppance!

Laura Reid likes her new job on Tenerife, teaching the Spanish twins Maria and Ricardo Chávez. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved with Andrew Kirby and his pal, Jalbala Emcheta, who work for CITES, tracking down illegal traders in endangered species. Yet she’s undeniably drawn to Andrew, which is complicated, as she’s also attracted to Felipe, the brother of her widower host, Don Alonso.
            Felipe’s girlfriend Lola is jealous and Laura is forced to take sides – risking her own life – as she and Andrew uncover the criminal network that not only deals in the products from endangered species, but also thrives on people trafficking. The pair are aided by two Spanish lawmen, Lieutenant Vargas of the Guardia Civil and Ruben Salazar, Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de las Canarias.
            Very soon betrayal and mortal danger lurk in the shadows, along with the dark deeds of kidnapping and clandestine scuba diving…

Friday 27 September 2013

Stanislav Petrov

Interesting! My Make a Date blog for 26 September mentions Stanislav Petrov: The man who may have saved the world. And it now appears in the BBC news, celebrating 30 years since the event:

FFB - Catching the Light

Friday's Forgotten Book:

CATCHING THE LIGHT – The entwined history of light and mind
Arthur Zajonc

Professor Zajonc, a physicist, sets out on a journey of discovery, to answer What is Light? He does not simply employ physics but also poetry, philosophy and art. On the way, we encounter: the ancient Greeks, who apparently had no words for green and blue; India’s Bhagavad-Gita featuring a bard who sings to a blind and worldly royalty; the Arab Alhazen’s improvement on Euclid, supposing ‘the eye, once the site of a sun-like, divine fire, fast became a darkened chamber, awaiting an external force to lighten it.’; and Kepler, Copernicus, Descartes, Goethe, Milton , Twain, Galileo, and Einstein to name but a few. The duality of lights, as both a wave and a particle (as I recall from my Open University course) is echoed in Zajonc’s theme, the duality of the two sides of the brain interpreting the artistic and the mathematical views of light, and is explained clearly and insightfully, with Zajonc mustering some quite poetic prose in the process.
Illustrations are not complex and kept to a minimum; this is not a text-book, more a detective adventure story.
Arthur Zajonc

The dangers of scientists reducing everything, including beauty, to cold passionless data was long-ago appreciated by many ‘natural philosophers’ such as Faraday and poets like Keats, and every effort was made to retain a sense of wonder at the new discoveries; even the late Richard Feynman said that his appreciation of the beauty of nature was enhanced, not diminished, by his knowledge of physics.
This, then, is a celebration of Light, and of our tentative, often frustrated, fumbling in the dark for that understanding. Light is as much a part of our mind-set as it is an external phenomena. For example, Zajonc cites a patient blind from the age of ten months receiving cornea transplants when he was fifty; when his sight was restored he could not see as his brain had not learned to see: the process of learning was slow and never fully completed.
Straddling the scientific and artistic cultures, Zajonc may end up satisfying neither; which would be a pity, as this is an enlightening book for the scientist and the poet, for the layman and the artist.

Published in 1995.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Make a Date - 3, 15 and 26 September

Again, linking dates through history, showing only the day in brackets to avoid repetition of the month. Another section from the book in progress. This time, the random dates are:

3, 15 and 26 September

At a time when the Royal Navy is shrinking, and when UK’s political masters would rather have Britain’s naval heritage as a dim memory, if at all, let’s begin this month’s article by looking back on some great seagoing events.

In 1580 Francis Drake completed his circumnavigation of the globe in his ship ‘The Golden Hind’ (26) and was knighted by Elizabeth I.

A mere forty years later (15) the ‘Mayflower’ departed from Plymouth to settle permanently its puritan passengers in New England to discover new food, drinks and people.

And a voyage of discovery of a different kind - two hundred and fifteen years later to the day, 1835 - laid the foundations of the Theory of Evolution, when HMS ‘Beagle’ brought Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands (15).

Ninety-nine years later, the steamship RMS ‘Queen Mary’ was launched (26) into the Clyde.

Scotland also witnessed a somewhat less illustrious nautical event in 1931: the infamous Invergordon Mutiny began (15) against the Royal Navy pay cuts and lasted two days. Although mutiny then carried the death penalty, the sailors’ strike was considered to be industrial action and while it was admitted that they had a good grievance - many liable to a 25% pay-cut, when they were poorly paid anyway - the ringleaders were jailed and some two hundred were dismissed from the Navy.

While the sea can be attractive and fickle, it can be treacherous and deadly too. No less deadly are rivers. The River Thames has been linked to our history for millennia and in 1878 over 640 passengers died when the crowded pleasure cruiser ‘Princess Alice’ collided with the ‘Bywell Castle’ (3).

Before moving on from boats and ships, mention should be made of Sir Malcolm Campbell. Lake Maggiore in Italy and Lake Hailwil in Switzerland respectively in September (2)1937 and (17)1938 saw him break the speed record on water in his boat ‘Bluebird’.

He was a true speed king and broke the land speed record (3) on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the first person to drive an automobile over 300mph (attaining 304.331mph).

This month we can also commemorate two men famously associated with the motor industry. Born (3) in 1875, Ferdinand Porsche was an automobile engineer whose name can still be seen on vehicles, just like another engineer and designer, Ettore Bugatti, who was born (15) in 1881.

Civil engineer Sir Donald Bailey designed the Bailey Bridge while working in the War Office and was later knighted for that; he was born (15) in 1901.

One of the world's greatest engineers was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who died (15) in 1859.

Kingdoms wax and wane and even though he was king for ten years, being crowned (3) in Westminster in 1189, Richard I, the Lionheart, only spent about six months of his reign in England, because he considered it ‘cold and always raining’ and didn’t particularly like rusty chain-mail.

Charles II was made King of the Scots but his army of Scots and Royalists was decisively beaten (3) at Worcester in 1651.

Then there are those who depose kings. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, changed the face of politics, royalty and Ireland and died (3) in 1658.

After his death his body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and posthumously ‘executed’ on the anniversary of the beheading of Charles I. Cromwell’s head was placed on a pole outside Westminster then changed hands several times before finally being buried in a Cambridge college in 1960.

Near another county’s college is the spiritual centre of the Church of England, Canterbury Cathedral. My surname-sake, John Morton was Archbishop of Canterbury and a great builder. The central tower of Canterbury Cathedral, known both as the ‘Angel Steeple’ and as ‘Bell Harry’ was erected with Morton’s help and at his expense.

The Gateway Tower of Lambeth Palace, where he lived and where Sir Thomas More served him as page, bears Morton’s name and remains as a monument of his taste and generosity. He died (15) in 1500, the same day that Thomas Wolsey was made Archbishop of York (15) fourteen years later.

Wolsey, the pope’s representative, went on to become powerful, shaping England’s power at home and abroad for over ten years; he advocated the dissolution of the monasteries which Henry VIII completed. Then he fell into disfavour with Henry, when the king wanted to be rid of Catherine of Aragon, and was summoned to London for treason but died on the way. Wolsey fancied becoming pope but this was denied him because his arrogance and greed were too obvious to all. He’d never make a saint, unlike More who was beheaded by Henry VIII and canonized in 1935.

In 608 AD Saint Boniface IV became Pope (15). He was responsible for making the Pantheon - the temple to Mars, Jupiter and Venus, built by Agrippa and Hadrian - into a Christian church and thus preserving this remarkable building for posterity. He took great interest in the fledgling church in England and had dealings with the Irish monk Saint Columban.

Three hundred and thirteen years to the day later (15), Saint Ludmilla was murdered at the command of her daughter-in-law, Drahomira who secretly favoured paganism over Christianity.

Jealous of her mother-in-law’s influence over her young son and heir, Saint Wenceslaus (Father Christmas), Drahomira hired two not so noblemen to strangle Ludmilla with her veil.

Ludmilla’s remains finally ended up in the church of Saint George in Prague and she is one of the patrons of Bohemia and her feast is celebrated on 16 September.

A saint of stone rather than flesh is the San Lorenzo del Escorial Palace near Madrid, which was finished (15) in 1584.

An intriguing mixture of royal grandeur and monastic austerity, it’s the gilded resting place of twenty-six kings and queens of Spain. It was built to commemorate Spain’s victory over the French at San Quentin in 1557.

In 1687 a building of even greater antiquity - the Parthenon - was partially destroyed (26) after an explosion caused by the bombing from Venetian forces while besieging the Ottoman Turks situated in Athens.

Greek film actress Irene Papas, star of about eighty-three films, including ‘The Guns of Navarone’, ‘Zorba the Greek’, ‘Yerma’ and ‘Captain Corelli's Mandolin’, was born (3) in 1926.

Talking of Captain Corelli, another string musician was Frenchman Charles Munch, who was born (26) in 1891. He was the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for thirteen years. Born in 1898 on the same day (26) was George Gershwin, the composer of such classics as ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and ‘Porgy and Bess’. Still on the same day (26) but in 1957, Leonard Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ opened in Broadway.

This is the same day (26) that the Third World War was averted in 1983. At the height of the Cold War, only weeks after Korean Airlines Flight 007 was shot down by Soviet aircraft, Early-warning Commander Stanislav Petrov was facing a crisis when his Soviet computer system told him that the US had launched five missiles at Russia.

Petrov had seconds to make a decision. He came to the conclusion that if the West was going to attack it would do so in massive numbers of missiles, not just five. He declared it was a false alarm - which it was, caused by the satellite interpreting sun shining off the tops of clouds as a missile launch. Having avoided all-out nuclear war, Petrov was neither punished nor rewarded but essentially his career was over and he retired to live in poverty outside Moscow. This was all kept secret until 1999.

The other moment when the world stood on the brink of nuclear holocaust was in 1962. The Soviet ship ‘Poltava’ headed towards Cuba (15), one of the events setting in train the Cuban Missile Crisis. Krushchev backed down. He actually was the first Soviet leader to visit the United States (15) - in 1959 when things were not so tense with America.

American novelist James Fennimore Cooper was born (15) in 1789, the same day as namesake actor and director Jackie Cooper (1922). Fennimore Cooper’s ‘Deerslayer’ series, including ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ were surprisingly popular, probably influenced by the life story of Daniel Boone, frontiersman, who died (26) in 1820. Cooper’s stories defined much of the bravery and pioneering spirit of the Old West.

A pioneer of a different kind was Sir Alexander Fleming who noticed in 1928 a bacteria-killing mold growing in his laboratory and thus discovered penicillin (15).

Besides medicine and new frontiers, there were pioneers in transport systems too. In 1830 the Liverpool to Manchester railway line was opened - though the event was marred by death. The Liverpool MP William Huskisson alighted from the train to chat to the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, and misjudged the speed of the approaching locomotive The Rocket. He died shortly afterwards (15).

Another casualty, hit by a train on the same day (15) though in 1885, was P. T. Barnum’s Jumbo, the circus elephant, while crossing the railroad tracks. The train was derailed and it took 150 men to haul the body off the line. Twenty-four-year-old Jumbo was later stuffed and featured as an exhibit.

I think I’ve stuffed enough linked facts and dates for now.


Wednesday 25 September 2013

Dear Editor - rejection

All writers have to get used to rejection. It's a rare writer who has never been rejected. You need to don a thick skin in the morning, especially before the mail arrives (snail or e).

You won't be surprised to learn that many subsequently famous authors received their fair share of 'thanks, but no thanks' notes. Here are a few:

Crash (1973 by J.G. Ballard - 'The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.'

A Study in Scarlet (1887) by Arthur Conan Doyle, introducing Sherlock Holmes to the world - 'Neither long enough for a serial nor short enough for a single story.'

The Last of the Plainsmen (1908) by Zane Grey - 'I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction.'

The Blessing Way (1970) by Tony Hillerman - 'If you insist on rewriting this, get rid of all that Indian stuff.'

The Rainbow (1915) by D.H. Lawrence - 'It is unpublishable as it stands because of its flagrant love passages.'

Peyton Place (1955) by Grace Metalious - 'Definitely too racy for us.'

Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell - 'It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.'

Leaves of Grass (1855) by Walt Whitman - 'We deem it injudicious to commit ourselves.'

and two of my favourites:

The Time Machine (1895) by H.G. Wells - 'It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.'

The War of the Worlds (1898) by H.G. Wells - 'An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would take... I think the verdict would be "Oh don't read this horrid book".'

However, if you do get rejected, I do recommend you don't respond with any invective or abuse, such as our alien wannabe scribe:

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Make a Date

Some time ago I published a regular monthly column linking a set selection of dates in history. The series was popular. I'm busy coordinating the articles into book form. As today is 24 September, here are a number of linked events for that date plus three other September dates. To avoid repetition, I've simply indicated the relevant date in brackets. The four dates for this article are:
2, 13, 24 and 28 September

Being late to adopt fresh ideas isn’t new for the UK. Long before the Euro there was the Gregorian Calendar, which we adopted in 1752, nearly two hundred years later than most of western Europe (2).

That great European and Roman, Pompey the Great was assassinated in 48BC on the orders of King Ptolemy of Egypt (28). In 1898 British and Egyptian troops led by Kitchener defeated Khalifa Abdulla al-Taashi’s Sudanese tribesmen (2), which resulted in British dominance in the Sudan for many years. Twenty-six days later in 1396 the Ottoman Emperor Byazid I defeated a Christian army at Nicopolis (28). And on the same day in 1970 Egypt’s first president Gamal Abdal Nasser died, thirty years and fifteen days after Italy’s Mussolini invaded Egypt.

Another notable invasion was William the Conqueror’s, in 1066 and all that (28). Since then the British Isles haven’t been successfully invaded, though a few battles have inevitably been lost – such as the airborne’s defeat at Arnhem in 1944 which happened to be on the same day too.

As the Second World War lasted six years, it’s logical there’ll be many note-worthy days in that conflict. Last month Anne Frank’s final diary entry was commemorated; in 1944 she and her family were put on the last transport train to Auschwitz (2) in 1941...

German bombs damaged (13) Buckingham Palace in 1940 but this was nothing compared to the ten thousand buildings destroyed during the Great Fire of London of 1666 which started at a baker’s in Pudding Lane (2).

The Second World War ended officially with the surrender of Japan in 1945, accepted by General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz (2). Twenty-two days later in 1564 English navigator and Japanese samurai William Adams was born. And in 1988 the cartoonist Charles Addams died (28) but will forever be known as the creator of the Addams Family.

Coincidences between names or events crop up from time to time, such as the battle of Marathon which supposedly began in 490 BC and on the same day a mere 2,460 years later the first New York City Marathon took place (13). Interestingly, this month in 1937 saw the death (2) of Pierre de Coubertin, the French founder of the modern Olympic Games.

While discussing New York, the Netherlands surrendered New Amsterdam to England (24) in 1664; and on the same day (24) in 1493 Columbus set out on his second expedition to the New World.

It’s doubtful if anyone involved in the first airplane flight in Europe (13) in 1906 would have realised how advanced and commonplace flight between countries would become. A year earlier aviator, inventor, film producer and eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes was born (24). Indeed, this was only fifty-five years after the first airship was displayed (24), and on the same day in 1908 the first Ford Model-T was built. Forty years later, the Honda Motor Company was founded (24). Forty-six years after that, the Ulysses spacecraft passed the sun’s south-pole (13). Such is progress.

Advances in technology haven’t always gone hand-in-hand with advances in human relationships. In 1871 Brazil passed a law freeing future children of slaves (28), yet there are thousands of children used as slave labour round the globe, not only in South America. Children’s author Dr Seuss died in 1991 (24) a year before Roald Dahl - who was born (13) in 1916 – the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has just been released starring Johnny Depp; in 1857 Milton S Hershey was born and became a chocolate entrepreneur and founded the Hershey Chocolate Company (13). In 1936 children’s entertainer Jim Henson was born; he was the creator of The Muppets (24) – a surreal menagerie of creatures!

Author of the famous novel about whales and whaling, Moby Dick, Herman Melville died (28) in 1891; and on the same day animal-rights activist and one-time sex-goddess actress Brigitte Bardot was born in 1934, ten years later to the day as that heart-throb Marcello Mastroianni.

As mentioned before, history is riddled with battles. The Battle of Actium during the Roman Civil War in 31 BC saw the defeat by Octavian of Mark Antony and Cleopatra (2). Eleven days later in 1759 British General James Wolfe beat the French on the Plains of Abraham and died the same day (13). Amazingly, some modern-day schoolchildren thought the Battle of Britain referred to the fight of Helm’s Deep from The Lord of the Rings. In 1973 that book’s author, J.R.R. Tolkien died (2).

History and Time are fascinating subjects. Two favourite plays by J B Priestley are Time and the Conways and An Inspector Calls. Both shift time for the audience to reveal inner truths and strong messages. Priestley was born (13) in 1894 and his output was varied and prodigious.

Monday 23 September 2013

A holy forest

Córdoba was once the greatest city of the Arab west, rivalling both Cairo and Baghdad. Its mosque – Mezquita – is one of the world’s most beautiful Islamic buildings.

From the fifth to the eighth century Córdoba was ruled by the Visigoths. Two hundred years later, the Moors came, with the help of the city’s disaffected Jewish residents. The Islamic rule permitted the worship of other religions, so Jews, Christians and Moors lived and worked cheek by jowl. A far cry from the intolerance of the Spanish Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand who threw out of Spain not only the Arabs but also the Jews in 1492.
Cordoba - the river is often populated by cattle and goats in the height of summer!

It’s an intriguing fact that often beneath any place of worship you may find older hidden churches and cathedrals. Apparently, during the Visigothic period the church of San Vicente was built, only to be destroyed by the Moors who began in 785 to build on the same site their great mosque; the construction took two hundred years and the mosque was considered so important that it saved the city’s inhabitants the arduous pilgrimage to Mecca, which boasted the only mosque of greater size and importance.

Abd al Rahman I, inspired by the Mosque of Damascus, intended the design to include the traditional ablution courtyard – where the faithful washed before prayer – and the hall of prayer itself. His successor, Abd al Rahman II, carried out the first addition, lengthening the courtyard and the prayer hall aisles.  A minaret was constructed in the courtyard but this is now embedded in the cathedral’s 93m high bell tower, Torre del Alminar. Al Hakam II increased the splendour of the decorations, bringing Byzantine artists to provide beautiful mosaics. The final expansion of the mosque was effected under the rule of Al Mansur.

With its seventeen aisles, divided by tiers of arches spanning columns often taken from Roman and Carthaginian sites; it still has a powerful effect on any visitor entering from the Courtyard of the Orange Trees.  The profusion of magnificent arches has been called ‘a holy jungle’, which is most apt with about 850 columns creating a criss-crossing of alleys, the pillars supporting two tiers of striped arches that add height and create a remarkable feeling of space.

The mihrab – a prayer recess – is situated along the wall that faces Mecca and it held a gilt copy of the Koran. Here you can appreciate the exquisite mosaic art and interlaced arches. The mihrab is topped by a shell-shaped dome. The worn flagstones indicate where pilgrims circled it seven times on their knees – it’s now fenced-off, probably to preserve the floor.

The great mosque and its courtyard were places of worship, centres of teaching, of justice and here too a social life thrived.

In the eleventh century, civil war devastated the city, hundreds were massacred and much of the beautiful city destroyed. Although it remained a Muslim city for another two hundred years, its power had gone, being transferred to Seville and other petty Islamic kingdoms. Córdoba finally fell to the Reconquest in 1236 and its Muslim inhabitants fled south.

Immediately after the Christians took the city, the great mosque became their cathedral – Church of the Virgin of the Assumption – with minor architectural changes, such as placing chapels in the outer aisles. The first chapel – Capilla de Villaviciosa – was built in 1371 and its multi-lobed arches are quite stunning. In 1523 began the construction of a tall cruciform church in the centre of the mosque building. Emperor Charles V had given unthinking permission for the construction. When he saw the result, he accused the cathedral builders: ‘You have built here what you or anyone might have built anywhere else, but you have destroyed what was unique in the world.’ Part of the Mezquita was destroyed to accommodate the cathedral; much of it survived and was transformed. And with its dazzling visual effect, the great mosque is still unique.

What is surprising is that, unlike so many other times, the reconquering Christians actually let the original Islamic building stand. They razed many to the ground. This great mosque and the Alhambra palace of Granada suffered privations, but even now they’re still standing, captivating emblems of Arabic history and culture.

Now you encounter the breath-taking forest of Islamic arches then the hodgepodge of styles (Gothic, Renaissance, Italian and Baroque) that comprise the Christian cathedral.  The Christian architects created a Latin cross shaped plan, ingeniously integrating the caliphal structures. The main altarpiece is covered by a vault inspired by the Sistine Chapel, with an unusual set of stalls. Outside, the Muslim courtyard was remodelled with the cloisters. Original palm trees – imported by the Caliphate – were replaced by orange trees in the fifteenth century. It has been argued that the Cathedral administration has preserved the great mosque, which is now a World Heritage Site.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Teaching - profession or vocation?

Here's an interesting blog about teaching...

The blogger, author Meg Mims, says, 'Today, women still dominate the teaching profession. They do have the advantage of earning pensions, benefits and fairly decent wages - although for the work involved, they are still not paid enough (in my opinion.) We all have memories of our favourite teachers. God bless them all.'

Saturday 21 September 2013

A new kind of novel

Jules Verne brought something new to fiction and his influence is still felt to this day...

In the latter part of the nineteenth century an author emerged whose novels predicted submarines, flying machines, skyscrapers and even the moon landing. His works inspired some of the world’s scientists and, with H. G. Wells, he fathered the literary genre of science fiction. His name was Jules Verne. He died in 1905.

Best known for his books in English translation Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, A Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days, he in fact published 65 novels, 20 short stories and essays, 30 plays, some geographical works and even opera librettos.

Jules Gabriel Verne was born 8 February1828 in Nantes. So that he could follow in his lawyer father’s footsteps he was sent to study law in Paris. Here, he became fascinated with the theatre and, influenced by Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, he wrote plays; his first one-act comedy was performed when he was 22.

He abandoned law and over the next ten years continued to write plays but to support himself he became a stockbroker which gave him a modest financial stability, sufficient in 1857 to marry a widow, Honorine de Viane, acquiring two step-children. In 1861 they had one child, Michel Jean Pierre.

The following year his career took off in a new direction after he met a publisher, Pierre-Jules Hetzel, who offered insightful editorial suggestions to improve Verne’s writing. Verne was a devoted admirer of Edgar Allan Poe’s works and was clearly inspired by the American. After spending hours in the Parisian libraries studying geology, engineering and astronomy, Verne wrote his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon.

This was a new kind of novel. Because of Verne’s narrative style, many readers believed the story was true. It was an immediate success.

These days we think of Verne as an optimist and an unswerving supporter of scientific progress. Yet, like many writers using science as their fictional springboard, he harboured doubts about the effects of too much technology.

In 1863, at the beginning of his successful writing career, he wrote Paris in the Twentieth Century, a novel about a young man living in a future world with skyscrapers of glass and steel, high-speed trains, gas-powered automobiles, calculators and a worldwide communications network. But the hero cannot find happiness in this highly materialistic environment and comes to a tragic end.

However, Hetzel declined to publish the book as he feared it would damage Verne’s career, adding, ‘Nobody today will believe your prophecy, nobody will care about it.’ The manuscript gathered dust until 1989 when it was discovered by a relative and finally saw print; an English edition appeared in 1997.

From the Earth to the Moon (1865) has many uncanny similarities with the Apollo space programme of a century later. The characters first test the idea of a manned flight by launching a cat and a squirrel (NASA later used monkeys), recovering them at sea. Three men are launched (the same number of astronauts in the Apollo craft) from Florida, a location just a few miles from the Kennedy Space Centre. When they returned, they splashed down in the Pacific...

In his Clipper of the Clouds (1886) the evil genius Robur threatens the world from a flying ship utilising rotors. At the time, it was hotly debated whether the future of air travel was with heavier-than-air craft or balloons. Verne supported the airplane concept.
In his later years Verne wrote about the misuse of technology and its impact on the environment. In Propeller Island he lamented the destruction of the native cultures of various Polynesian islands. In the story The Ice Sphinx he predicted the decimation of the whale population.

And in The Begum’s Fortune he warns that technology and scientific knowledge in the hands of evil people can lead to destruction. In a story entitled ‘The Eternal Adam’ a far-future historian discovers the twentieth century civilisation was overthrown by geological cataclysms and the legend of Adam and Eve become true...

In 1871 Verne settled in Amiens and was elected counsellor in 1888, two years after surviving a murder attempt by his paranoid nephew, the bullet in Verne’s leg disabling him for the rest of his life.

Verne died on 24 March, 1905, aged seventy-seven. But he left behind a legacy which can still excite the imagination even today. The late Ray Bradbury said, ‘We are all, in one way or another, the children of Jules Verne.’
Explorers and scientists will often cite their interest in their careers first took hold after reading Verne. In 1886 the first all-electric submarine, built by two Englishmen, was named Nautilus in honour of Verne’s creation in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The first nuclear-powered submarine, launched in 1955, also carried the name Nautilus.

The website is an excellent bibliography of Verne’s works, many of which even to this day are not translated into English.

While will give you the opportunity to read all his works in the public domain online, for free, and also the French editions if you’d prefer to read them in their original language. And of course you can enjoy the various movie versions of his most popular books.

Friday 20 September 2013

FFB – MOVING PICTURES by Terry Pratchett

Sad to learn that Terry Pratchett can no longer type but dictates his books. He has a faithful assistant who has been with him twelve years who transcribes his words. His publishers have great faith in him, having contracted a further ten books. His daughter will carry on the Discworld, he says, “when I am gone.” He was made an OBE in 1998 and was knighted in 2009. In 2007 he announced he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I met Terry way back in 1995 when he judged a One Day Novel Writing competition (written over two days, 12 hours per day). I was placed joint fourth with my book Silenced in Darkness. He was charming, soft-spoken and generous with his time. He said “I was very impressed with the book. Sister Hannah is a deeply felt character.”
Moving Pictures is his ninth book in the Discworld novel sequence (1991). For the uninitiated, Discworld is a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, Great A’Tuin. The book series, begun in 1983, is fantasy and sci-fi mix, crammed with humour and a lot more besides.

Moving Pictures is a hilarious and touching homage to Hollywood, sending it up as well as loving it.

Alchemists discover film: they get little demons to paint the images seen through the camera lens and string them all together… Simple, really – except for the fact that some dread evil is wanting to break free of its prison in Holly Wood. And the fledgling film industry seems the determining factor.
That, briefly, is the rationale. Here can be seen the Discworld version of Gone With the Wind called Blown Away, which they made in three days: here is a neat reversal of the climax of King Kong and many other in-jokes for cinema buffs.

The jokes fall thick and fast, some of them flat: “Bullfrogs croaked in the rushes”, followed by the footnote, “But they were edited out of the finished production”; or, “Who are all these people?” she said. “They’re fans,” said Dibbler. “But I’m not hot!”
Films are called clicks: “The whole of life is just like watching a click, he thought. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it all out yourself from the clues. And you never, never get a chance to stay in your seat for the second house” sums up the humorous yet touching wisdom displayed by Pratchett.

This is one moving picture you must see: seeing is believing!

Thursday 19 September 2013

Blog guest – Jessica Tornese - Linked Time

My guest today is Jessica Tornese who has written two unusual and popular YA novels – and there isn’t a vampire or werewolf in sight! They’re the first two books in the Linked Trilogy and, like many good YA novels, will appeal to adult readers as well. The second book is a bit darker than the first.

Join Kate Christenson as she battles a past that was never meant to be hers!

Linked Through Time (Solstice Publishing)

Fifteen year old Kate Christenson is pretty sure she’s about to experience the worst possible summer at her grandparent’s farm in rural Baudette, Minnesota. Without cable, cell phones, or computers, Kate is headed for total isolation and six tedious weeks of boredom. Until the storm.

A freak lightning accident has Kate waking up in 1960. But she is not herself. She is the aunt she never met, but has eerily resembled her entire life. Thrust into living a dirt poor, rural farm life, Kate struggles to make sense of her situation - a boyfriend with a dark side, a “townie” who steals her heart, and the knowledge that 1960 is the very summer her aunt drowns in the local river.

Even with every precaution, Kate cannot stop fate, and an unexpected twist adds to her dilemma. To her horror, Kate finds out firsthand her aunt’s death was not an accident or a suicide, but something much, much worse.

Lost Through Time (Solstice publishing)

“There never was a body, you know.”

Such is the bizarre statement from Gran only weeks after Kate has returned from an accidental time traveling incident, surviving certain death…twice. Capturing Sarah’s killer seemed to be the reason for Kate’s disappearance, but Gran believes otherwise.

Learning of Kate’s power to time travel loosens memories and desires Gran has long since buried. Gran is set on finding Sarah, who she believes never died the night Dave Slater threw her in the river, but instead, went back in time through the Rapid River portal. With rudimentary research and analysis, Gran thinks she has unlocked the secrets to controlling the time traveling link that she and Kate share with their ancestors and she plans to use Kate to bring Sarah back.

When Kate agrees, she is shocked to find out that in the more aggressive form of time travel, she doesn’t become Sarah, but trades places with her, sending Kate to Baudette, Minnesota in the year of 1910, and Sarah ahead to the year 2000.

Baudette’s catastrophic 1910 fire and typhoid epidemic are the least of Kate’s worries once she discovers what has happened. Her chances of a return trip are thwarted with the struggle just to survive, and Sarah, reliving her lost childhood in the ease of current day life, decides to never return to the past, leaving Kate to suffer the life she has left behind.

Gran is torn - get rid of the daughter she has dreamed of finding for four decades, or rescue the precious granddaughter who risked everything for her selfish dream? And to what lengths will Sarah go to destroy any chances of Kate coming back? Will Sarah succeed in severing the link?


Steering carefully into the gravel drive of the Rapid River parking lot, I swore under my breath as the bike’s rear wheel slid on loose gravel. Trying to right the bike too quickly, I ended up swerving sharply to the left and crashing into the brush at the side of the gravel lot. Flying over the handlebars, I landed in a patch of overgrown weeds, my knee striking a rock hidden in the ground. Pain radiated from my knee, paralyzing me for a moment. I lay sprawled face first in the grass, breathing in the smell of earth and dry grass, cursing myself and everything on the planet.

Emotions overwhelmed my frazzled, fragile mind and I let loose with a string of profanities that would have definitely earned me a whipping. Rubbing my throbbing knee, I groaned.

Lightning flashed and the breeze picked up as if on cue, sending the cattails above my head into an agitated dance.

With great effort, I stood and flexed my leg. I could feel the slightest trickle of blood dripping a warm path down my shin. Perfect, I grimaced. Can anything else possibly go wrong tonight?

My vision had adjusted slightly to the moonless night, but I still had to partly feel my way to the place Travis and I spent the evening. Pushing through the brush, I couldn’t help but sense that uneasy, creepy feeling that comes from wandering in the dark, as though eyes watched you and monster hands waited to grab at your feet. My heart pounded loudly in my ears, the tingling creep of fear working its way from my head down through my limbs. I forced myself to keep my eyes forward, ignoring the nagging feeling that someone or something watched me from the shadows of the rocky shore.

Limbs of the interlocking pines poked and prodded my bare arms as I threaded my way through the trees. The pounding of the rapids had increased with the coming of the storm; the wind tossed the water upon the rocks, sending spray high into the air.

When I broke through the tree line, I stood mesmerized by the awesome power of the roaring water. It looked as if the rapids were fighting to break free of their rocky channel, its watery fingers washing over the rocks, reaching far down the wall, only to withdraw and try again.

Above the churning waters, a simple two-lane bridge hung defiantly in the air, its thick concrete arches planted firmly around the dangerous rocks. Suddenly, a semi loaded with logs thundered across the bridge overhead; its headlights lighting up the darkness for a matter of seconds. I used the momentary help to break my gaze from the water and search the outer banks for my sweater.

A flicker of movement amidst the trees caught my line of sight, and I focused in on a ring of pines to my right; the very place Travis and I had been a few hours earlier.
“Travis?” I called out hopefully, thinking he had remembered to retrieve my sweater.


I felt the exact moment my heart stopped beating in my chest.

“Where’s Mary?” I said, trying to keep the alarm from rising in my voice. The group looked around, stunned.

Vivie handed Gracie to James. “She was just here. I swear it.”

Frantic, we strained to see across the wagon bridge into Spooner. The brilliant blond tresses of Mary’s head were nowhere to be seen.

Ruth spoke up. “That man took her to the depot.”

I stared hard at Ruth, trying to process the words, but not understanding. “What man?” I said, confused. There were dozens of people crossing the bridge rushing in all directions. Like ants on a collapsing anthill, the twin towns were alive with chaos, the people coming and going with what looked like little purpose. “What man?” I said again, the panic seizing my voice and pushing it another octave higher. I grasped Ruth’s arms in a painful, panicked grip.

Ruth shrank away, afraid I might lash out. “I don’t know. I was watching John. Aunt Vivie told me to watch John.” Her eyes welled with tears. “I had John,” she insisted again, afraid of taking the blame.

“What did the man look like? What was he doing?” I demanded.

“He was that man from the backyard. The big man who touched Mary’s hair. I heard him say he could help her run faster. For her to take his hand.”

Sickness heaved inside and I clenched my jaw.

“You were getting sick over the bridge,” Ruth accused. “You weren’t helping at all! Mary couldn’t keep up and she was crying!”

Vivie reached out and gripped my shoulders. Without saying a word, we stared hard into each other’s eyes, the truth of the situation passing between us as though we were speaking aloud. McGraw had bided his time, watched us from afar and waited for a weak moment. He couldn’t possibly know the danger he faced. Was it a ploy? Would he really take Mary? Or was he just trying to get me alone to give chase and play his twisted game of revenge?

“I’ll go,” Vivie said, the sacrifice evident in the firm line of her mouth. “You can’t fall for his trap, Kate. He won’t do anything to me.”

“No,” I argued. “Too dangerous. If something happens to you, then Gran will never be born, and then, neither will I.”

Q&A with Jessica

1. The question that is always asked—what inspired you to write your two time travel books?

I grew up with a large family. Dad was one of eleven children, so I have endless tales of cousins and extended family. Dad’s stories always stuck with me because he grew up with nothing. Absolutely nothing! He did not have indoor plumbing until high school - in Northern Minnesota! I admire him and wanted to keep his stories alive. A lot of what happens to Kate in “Linked” were true events from my dad’s childhood. Lost Through Time mentions a disaster that actually occurred in my home town in 1910. I guess I just really like to keep the stories of our ancestors from dying out. They were true, hard core Americans fighting just to make a living.

2. Your take on time travel is unique did you do any research to help you form the idea?

I love the idea of using something that had to do with the region. Of course, northern lights are not often seen as brilliantly as in Alaska or Canada, but they are amazing and kind of mysterious, so I thought they could be a believable reason!

3. What challenges have you overcome in having such a take on time travel?

As with any book, I had to keep going back and forth to remember my rules and events to make things happen. Since I change the rules in the second book, I had to really sketch out why and how Kate could travel differently than other characters.

4. You create a very realistic picture of farm life in the 1960s—did you do research? If not, how did you create such a realistic picture without research?

I actually lived on the farm I describe. For a few short months, I had to live with my grandparents in the very house my dad grew up in. They were still doing the same chores and living the same kind of lifestyle - except with indoor plumbing of course! The chores were endless and I absolutely hate haying!

5. Who is your favorite character and why?

I love Kate. She reminds me of myself. I was the snotty city girl that was taken out of the city and moved to a small northern MN town when I was fifteen. I thought my life was over! I learned a lot about myself as a person and learned how to work outside. I appreciate my dad more, and am so glad to have been raised closer to his family. I love Kate’s growth and life lessons about boys. There are good boyfriends out there and bad… definitely something we have to learn!

6. In Book One you create sympathy for the character of Sarah, but in book two she’s quite evil. Was it hard, making a character that was originally likeable into a bad character?

Yes. It was actually my husband’s idea to create a villain. He basically said that the story will go nowhere without a villain, so we decided Sarah had the most to be angry and vengeful about! Once I started, it was really fun to write the villain part because I never get to act that way. It was a peek into the dark side!

7. Kate matures a lot through Book One. Did you always plan this, or did she mature as you wrote the novel?

Kate was really a mirror of me. I think I wanted to show that from day one - how she can go from a judgmental teenager focusing on her own needs, to learning about serving others. I think everyone makes this same transition at some point in their lives; it’s just a question of when.

8. In Linked Through Time, keeping track of so many brothers and sisters was hard for Sarah, how did you do it as an author?

I literally took my dad’s family and just changed the names! He had 6 brothers and 5 sisters, and I just kept picturing them in my mind.

9. In Linked Through Time who was your favourite brother or sister?

Probably a tie between Dean and Rodney. I identify with both of their personalities. Dad had a little of each, so I brought out his tough military side in Rodney and his protective side in Dean.

10. How did you evolve the story of Linked Through Time into Lost Through Time?

I didn’t want Kate’s story to be over. I knew I wanted to write about Baudette’s historic fire, so once I decided to bring Sarah back into the picture, it all fell into place. I love history and am trying to decide how to connect with the final chapter in Kate’s and Sarah’s life in Book Three.

11. We saw a very little bit of Travis’ son—will we see more of him?

T.J. will make an appearance in Book Three. I think we will see a bit more develop with him. I want Kate’s story to have something good in it for her. Though it is a little Jerry Springer, I think Kate deserves a good man and some closure in all the chaos she lives in.

12. What is the title of the next book in the trilogy?

As of right now, Destroyed In Time, recommended to me by another Solstice author, Michael Thal. I am still in the early stages of defining the book. I have to be really careful how I end this book.

13. When did you start writing?

I didn’t really start writing books until a few years ago, but I have always loved writing and reading. They go hand in hand, I think.

14. As an author, what is your biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?

Finding time to write. I have three kids and it is a constant tornado in the house. I try to take some time once a week to nail down some outline ideas.

15. You are with an independent publisher, Solstice Publishing, how did you find them?

I submitted my work based on a newsletter I received called Children’s Writer. They give contact names and emails and it just happened to work out that Nik Morton liked the manuscript. [Nik is no longer EIC of Solstice].

16. What do you like best about being with a smaller press?

I like the camaraderie with the other authors. We have a daily interaction online. Mostly we use it for questions or support, but it’s nice to have others in the same boat as yourself.

17. What is the biggest challenge of being with a smaller press?

Marketing. There just isn’t enough time or money to get the word out. It has to be done over time, mostly doing your own. But Solstice is trying hard to work with everyone and do what they can with their resources. I was recently voted Solstice’s Author of the Year, so that was very exciting and proof that I do have fans out there that love the books.

18. For budding authors out there, how much say do you think you have in the final product, from cover to the insides, to the marketing?

Depending on the publisher, you can have a lot of say in your product. I wouldn’t let someone change my work completely, especially if it was something I didn’t believe in. Stay true to your style and someone will come along that likes it!

19. Other than writing, what are some things that you love to do?

I love volleyball and camping, and outdoor things in general. I love, love, love to read! A good book on the beach is my heaven!

A selection of reviews:

5*- Hannah- “As someone who grew up in Minnesota, I enjoyed the Midwestern nuances. The story line has the perfect amount of complexity to allow for an easy read with a plot that keeps you guessing. I will be referring my friends and family to this book, and am excited to read more by this author in the future.”

5*- Author Jennifer Comeaux-“ I haven't read many time travel stories, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. What I loved most about it were the rich details that put me back in the 1960s rural setting and the relationship between Kate and her father in the past. It was such a neat way to strengthen the bond between father and daughter - a bond that was very shaky in present day. The story kept me in suspense throughout as I wondered if Kate would be able to change the past, and the ending was definitely a surprise! I'll be looking out for more from Jessica Tornese in the future.”

5*-Author Nancy Wood-“… There's no internet or cell service. No cable. And before Kate even makes it into the farmhouse, she accidentally smashes her iPod: a clean separation from the life she knew. Kate has issues with everyone, from her dad to grandparents to her mother. Nothing is made easier by the fact that Kate's a dead ringer for her Aunt Sarah, who committed suicide at age 15. But when Kate is transported back to 1960, resurrected as Sarah, her once-burning issues begin to seem trivial in light of what she's facing. Life is so different! Every member of the family works long, hard hours on the farm. There's Sarah's questionable relationship with intimidating boyfriend Dave Slator. There's a new love interest, Travis Kochevar, a townie. There's Sarah's siblings, Kate's dad, and other aunts and uncles. And there are the secrets Sarah keeps, secrets that she doesn't even share with her closest sibling, Kate's dad. With Sarah's death looming, Kate has to figure out why she's there. Kate grows up during her stay in 1960… matured, much more compassionate, and much more aware of love, loyalty, and family. This book drew me in and moved along flawlessly. There's something for every reader: the paranormal, romance, suspense, and a mystery with a twist. Jessica Tornese's deft writing will keep you turning the pages!”

5*- Jboy- “Jessica definitely delivers on her sequel to Linked Through Time. It takes a crazy twist at the beginning and it keeps your attention to the very end. I'm hoping there will be a third book since I really enjoy Jessica's writing style and storytelling.”

5*-MN girl- “I think I liked this book even more than the first! I was surprised at the development of Sarah's character, and felt the suspense building throughout the book as well. Knowing what was supposed to happen, and waiting to see what would happen just made the story fly by. The developments at the end of the book leave me feeling excited to see what this author has in store for the third instalment of Kate's story!”

Author Bio, Links, and Contact

Jessica Tornese was inspired by her home town Baudette, MN. She graduated from high school there and continued her education at Minnesota State University – Moorhead where she earned a degree in education. She spent several years coaching in the Junior Olympic volleyball program in Minnesota as well as the junior varsity team for Lake of the Woods High School in 2010.

 Her favourite hobbies include reading, scrapbooking, playing volleyball, and extreme outdoor sports like caving, ziplining, and white water rafting. Jessica is also active in her church and has run several Vacation Bible School programs and Sunday school programs. She enjoys working with kids of all ages. She hopes to finish her Linked trilogy soon, and continue writing. Recently, she self-published her first juvenile fiction book for kids online (see M&M Twins). Jessica is married and has three children. Her family recently relocated to a small town in south Florida.


Twitter- @jltornese